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Old 12-19-2006, 04:31 AM   #1
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Crash tests downgrade small cars

Crash tests downgrade small cars
Nissan Versa rates the highest of 9

December 19, 2006


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released crash-test ratings today for subcompact vehicles and did not endorse any of the models it evaluated.

Instead, the institute urged consumers to stick with bigger, heavier vehicles, which typically are safer for motorists.

Real-life crash results show that any car that's very small and light isn't the best safety choice, said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute.

Driver death rates in subcompacts -- the smallest vehicles on the road -- are higher than in any other vehicle category, he said. They more than double the death rates for midsize and large cars.

The institute evaluated nine cars weighing 2,500 pounds or less, a size that's smaller than the compact Honda Civic. Good was the highest rating, followed by acceptable, marginal and poor.

Among the nine, the Nissan Versa rated the highest in all three crash-test categories -- front, side and rear.

The Toyota Yaris was next-best, earning good in front and side crash tests but marginal in the rear test.

Among the worst performers were the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, earning acceptable in the front test, but poor in the side and rear tests.

Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson said the rear crash-test rating is based on headrest criteria.

"Hyundai is targeting July production to add the Accent to its list of vehicles equipped with active head restraints," he said.

In general, vehicles that performed better were equipped with side air bags and head-protection systems.

Subcompacts have gained popularity over the last year or so, mainly because they get good gas mileage. Even so, Lund recommends that buyers go for something bigger for safety reasons.

"Larger cars provide more protection, even slightly larger, and they get almost as good gas mileage," he said.

"Some of the midsize cars like the Accord and the Camry, if you get them in the four-cylinder versions, have as good a gas mileage as the mini cars.

"If you really want to save fuel, buy a larger car that's less powerful than a smaller lightweight vehicle that also sacrifices your safety."

Ellie Prince, who works in sales and leasing at Suburban Nissan in Troy, points out that many consumers are trading in their SUVs.

At the same time, they don't want to compromise their safety. She said that's what worries consumers most about subcompacts.

"Everyone in metro Detroit is a commuter and safety is a huge concern," she said.

Crashworthiness evaluations

The nine models ranked from best down

Front Side Rear

Nissan Versa Good Good Good

Toyota Yaris* Good Good Marginal

Honda Fit Good Good Poor

Mini Cooper Good Acceptable Marginal

Chevrolet Aveo Acceptable Marginal Poor

Scion xB Good Poor Marginal

Toyota Yaris Good Poor Marginal

Hyundai Accent Acceptable Poor Poor

Kia Rio Acceptable Poor Poor

*Model with side air bags

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Contact MARGARITA BAUZA at 313-222-6823 or
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